Tuesday’s town board work session: Reader’s Digest DEIS, budget revisited

December 5, 2008
by Christine Yeres

Two weeks ago, the town board’s special counsel for Reader’s Digest matters asked lawyers for developer Summit Greenfield to supply the board with electronic copies of the multi-volume draft environmental impact statement under review.  The response came last week, in the form of three more multi-volume hard copies of the DEIS, one of which will be added to the clerk’s office at town hall for residents to consult.  No disc will come from the developer until the town board officially declares the document complete.

Due to illness, the board’s F.P. Clark planning consultant Joanne Meder, advisor-coordinator of the town’s review of the DEIS, was absent from the board’s Tuesday, December 2 work session. The town board hopes to have “a good first draft” of its response to the DEIS by its next work session on December 16, according to Administrator Gennaro Faiella.

The board continued with its 2009 budget discussion.

Is mulching killing the mulching machines? 

Board members questioned the town-run mulching program through which residents can purchase truckloads of mulch or compost, at reasonable rates, to be delivered to their homes. Members wondered aloud whether chipping large logs was the cause of their heavy equipment expiring before they had expected. Board members decided that the town may need to consider turning away the largest logs.

No changes to proposed budget increase of 4.8% 

Town Administrator Gennaro Faiella answered some budget questions raised by residents at last week’s board meeting and by email. Of the 135 town employees, 42 are police and the size of the force is on the slightly smaller side as compared to comparable towns. 2004 figures showed that New Castle employs 2.4 officers per 1,000 residents. For comparison, Faiella listed the police officers per 1000 residents in similar towns: Scarsdale, 2.6; Bronxville 3.5; Pleasantville 3.35; and Rye, 2.67.  Salaries across these towns were very similar since, as Supervisor Barbara Gerrard pointed out, “they are negotiated through unions, and members all know what everyone else is getting.”

Faiella drew the board’s attention to a sobering letter from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, calling for municipalities to review their cash flow needs and develop contingency budgets. But Faiella painted a healthy picture of New Castle, whose debt service will drop next year. In general, board members had few questions about the budget, and took satisfaction in the argument presented by Faiella that to lower the 4.8% rise in taxes by one percentage point would mean eliminating $124,000 from the budget, which translated to about $20 per household. 

Possible change to law on historic preservation

The town board may hold public hearings in the months ahead on whether to change its law on historic preservation. In 2008 an historic property sailed through the zoning board and architectural review board, securing approvals to make changes to the property. Only after the work on the house had begun did members of those boards and the town historian realize fully that the bodies that had approved the changes did so without knowledge of the historic status of the house.

The fact that the house dated from long ago and was designated as a landmark dwelling does not permit the town to deny a current owner the zoning changes and modernization he or she wants. But this slipping through the cracks caused the boards and the historian some consternation.  They resolved in the summer to coordinate – with the help of Lincoln Daley, the new town planner—their efforts more closely, to all work from a master list of designated landmark homes, and to communicate with one another more effectively from now on. The board will now consider changing the law to force a 45-day waiting period to take place before any building permit is issued on landmark properties.

Moratorium on downtown first-floor uses continues

The board expressed its surprise at the 50% response obtained by the town’s summer intern whose job it was to gather data that would categorize land use in both Chappaqua and Millwood, how it is used and for what types of uses, and how many employees are present during the day.  Solving the parking problem is seen as the key to unlocking an inner, snappier downtown hamlet.  For now, the intern’s work is done and the town will attempt to work with that data. The board sees itself on track to be finished with the six-month moratorium on schedule.